Migraine headaches are awful. I know. I suffered from them for 40 years. They started when I was 23 and they were no ordinary headaches. As any sufferer knows they’re crushing, excruciating and disabling.
It’s not just a headache. A migraine is often accompanied by crippling symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, difficulty speaking, and an aversion to light, noise and movement. The throbbing can last for hours or days and stopped me working.
Once you have it migraine rules your life. There are triggers you must try to avoid such as stress, overwork, getting overtired. Some foods are culprits – chocolate, cheese, fortified wines.
My surefire trigger was excitement. Getting ready for a much looked-forward-to party and dressed in my finery the searing knife-like pain would strike on one side or other of my forehead, my vision would go and I’d start being sick.
One in seven people in the UK have migraines, making migraine the third most common disease in the world, and in the top 10 for disability.
For relief, migraine sufferers try every combo of painkillers in the book and eventually you come up with your own mixture.
But a better solution could be here because the first medicine designed to prevent migraines has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, ushering in what many experts believe will be a new era in treatment for people who suffer the most severe forms of migraines.
It turns out people who get migraines make too much CGRP, a fragment of protein. When researchers gave CGRP to people prone to migraines, they got headaches. But when they gave it to people who don’t suffer with migraines, it usually didn’t set one off. That was a pivotal finding, said Dr Robert Conley, migraine specialist at Lilly Pharma. It meant that blocking some CGRP might prevent migraine headaches.
Researchers have been working on finding an antidote to CGRP for over 30 years and came up with an antibody which, because it persists in the body, only needs to be taken once a month by injection. It cuts the number of days with migraine by about half.
And something surprising has happened to some migraine sufferers who took part in the first trial.
Months after the last injection a sufferer took, migraines were much less frequent, and when they did strike they were milder and shorter.
And there are very few side effects – no more than placebo.
Some people don’t even need to take medication.
Now if that had happened to me it would have been life-changing.
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